Ralph Nader announced today that his League of Fans project would push for legislation that would forbid any professional league from prohibiting community ownership. Nader made the announcement as part of the release of the second report from his League of Fans’ Sports Manifesto. The report is titled, Transition to Community Ownership Model Needed to Empower Fans.
“The fundamental problem in pro sports is that we’ve given free reign to owners through a self-regulated monopoly system — including anti-trust exemptions — which allows owners to pursue a profit-at-all-costs agenda at the expense of fans,” said Nader. “This system has resulted in owners playing one city off another in the quest for new taxpayer-funded stadiums and other freeloading. A community ownership model, like the Green Bay Packers’, works. It’s a better way to structure and administer professional sports. It should become an optional mainstay of sports policy in this country.”
The National Football League (NFL) has formally banned any more Green Bay Packers ownership structures. Former commissioner Pete Rozelle changed the NFL constitution in 1960 to prevent another franchise from going to the Green Bay model. Article V, Section 4 of the NFL constitution, the “Green Bay Rule,” says that “charitable organizations and/or corporations not organized for profit and not now a member of the league may not hold membership in the National Football League.”
Major League Baseball (MLB) owners have also historically prevented community ownership arrangements, although they haven’t formalized a ban in their constitution. However, there are numerous community ownership structures thriving at the minor league levels of professional baseball, including the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Rochester Red Wings, and Memphis Redbirds.
“Virtually all of the problems of pro sports in America stem from the monopoly privileges of the leagues,” said Charles Euchner, author of Playing the Field: Why Sports Teams Move and Cities Fight to Keep Them. “Team movement, high ticket prices, absurd TV deals, competitive imbalances, and conflicts with labor (which produce unsustainable salaries), and poor treatment of minor-league players all stem from the leagues’ ability to control the product from top to bottom. Community ownership of teams offers one worthwhile strategy to attack this problem. Leagues oppose community ownership because it would undermine their pursuit of total control over sports at all levels. But we all know it works. League of Fans has decided to take up this fight. It’s a tough battle, but one worth waging. Pro sports should have to either adhere to the rules of the marketplace or allow community involvement in the games. Right now we have the worst of both worlds — heavy community investment, with all the benefits going to monopolistic leagues.”
A community ownership model inherently makes the best interests of the game and its fans paramount, as opposed to the profit-at-all-costs ethos that run the current system.
“The best way to make pro sports owners care about the fans is if the fans are the owners,” said Ken Reed, League of Fans’ sports policy director and author of the Sports Manifesto. “The clear answer to franchise blackmail, and many other problems in pro sports, is a community ownership model. For one, without the greed inherent in the current self-regulated monopoly system, there would be significantly less labor strife resulting in fewer work stoppages.”
Nader and Reed contend that the current ownership structure in professional sports results in the economic self-interest of the owners driving policymaking and operational decisions in pro sports at the expense of what’s best for the game and its fans.
“Ownership of a pro sports franchise is different than ownership of any other business in this country,” argued Reed. “Sport in this country is a cherished cultural practice. Major league teams are subsidized by, and linked with, their communities in many unique ways. As such, owners of pro sports franchises have the civic duty of looking out for the best interests of the team’s stakeholders, most importantly the fans. The community ownership model is designed to do just that.”
Nader said American pro sports are heavily weighted in favor of one stakeholder group: the owners.
“A system that allows for decisions and policies to be made on the basis of the economic self-interest of a small group of wealthy owners is poor public policy,” said Nader. “If we the people unify around the cause of community ownership in pro sports, we can get it done.”
In addition to a transition to a community ownership model, the League of Fans report calls for 1) a ban on blackouts from publicly-financed sports venues; 2) profit-sharing for cities that have publicly-financed sports venues; and 3) the establishment of fan and taxpayer councils in cases where owners utilize taxpayer-funded stadiums and arenas.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon